How to Use a Directional Compass

••• Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images

Explore America's Campgrounds

A compass is generally a pocket-sized navigational instrument that can locate the cardinal direction points -- north, east, south and west (and points in-between) -- by using either a magnet or a gyroscope. A magnetic compass reacts to the earth's magnetic field, while a gyro compass reacts to the rotation of the earth around the sun. As long as you know the difference in the directions, you can use a compass effectively.

Step 1

Place the compass on a level spot, either by placing it on a flat surface such as the ground or by holding it as level as possible.

Step 2

Locate your bearing. If you have determined which direction you wish to head, allow the compass to rest in a still position. Once it settles, the compass needle will point due north (sometimes known as true north).

Step 3

Align the "N" on the compass with the compass needle. Based on what direction you wish to head, move the orienting arrow in that exact direction. Follow the direction of the orienting arrow.